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Johnston & Murphy Looks to Women for Father's Day

Footwear maker and retailer Johnston & Murphy for the first time is targeting women through an e-mail campaign for Father's Day.

The Nashville, TN, company dropped its first batch of e-mails Friday, starting with its database. It will follow this with two more drops to opted-in prospects from outside lists, set for Wednesday and Thursday.

“I think it's not trying to address anything other than acknowledge the fact that women are very influential in the footwear decisions and they're often considered good guesses for men because men don't really like to go out and shop,” said Jeff Adams, e-commerce manager of Johnston & Murphy.

The first e-mails went to 46,500 names on the company's inhouse database. Eighty percent of those e-mailed were men. Names were pulled from Johnston & Murphy's catalog and online properties.

There was a reason for doing the first drop on the day before Memorial Day weekend.

“We have found that consumers are more open to offers prior to the weekend,” Adams said. “On Mondays, they're reeling from the expenses of the weekend and are more apt to delete messages in their box.”

For this week's two drops, Johnston & Murphy bought 15,000 names of business-executive prospects from YesMail. Half these names will be e-mailed each day.

Matching Johnston & Murphy's typical customer base – business executives ages 35 to 55 who buy shoes once or twice a year – the YesMail prospects are split evenly between men and women. However, the women on these lists tend to be more gift-purchasers.

ClickAction Inc., Palo Alto, CA, handles the dispatch and tracking of the e-mails.

All e-mails will direct consumers to a special Father's Day section on johnstonmurphy.com. The Father's Day section will tout accessories, gift certificates, a cedar shoe-care kit, silk crew neck shirts, alligator wallets, key chains and money clips and a felt shoe bag. It also offers two pairs of shoes on sale and two casual pairs.

“I anticipate click throughs of anywhere between 10 [percent] and 25 percent,” said Susan Andrews, vice president of account management and ClickServices at ClickAction. This is based on the 21 percent click-through garnered on a Feb. 23 e-mail push a week after Valentine's Day using YesMail opt-in names.

“Before we relaunched our site back in October, we did e-mails rather frequently but mainly for things like announcements of clearance sales and new spring or fall product,” Adams said. “So, we're being much more consistent now. We're doing things on a monthly basis and always have something persuasive in the body of the e-mail.”

Care had to be taken in writing the copy for the Father's Day e-mails so as not to alienate either sex. The copy for women will differ only minimally.

“The body copy will be consistent with both groups, but the subject line will vary,” Adams said. “So what you're doing is very generic, and you try to tug at the heartstrings a little because, after all, it's Father's Day.”

Andrews agreed.

“When we look at Father's Day and we think about who's shopping for the father and their target market is primarily men, we predict that women will want to buy shoes and accessories for their dads,” she said.

After results from this campaign come in, Johnston & Murphy will look to marketing aimed at widening its customer base.

“We're trying to get more younger,” Adams said. “Down the line, I'm going to try to hit some younger databases and bring them into the [Johnston & Murphy] database.”

Owned by Genesco Inc., Johnston & Murphy has more than 150 retail shops, factory outlets and airport stores in the United States. Its products also sell in more than 3,000 department and specialty stores nationwide, plus via its catalogs and site.

In a way, Johnston & Murphy is revisiting an earlier decision to walk away from the women's market. The marketer almost two decades ago had introduced a women's line of footwear but abandoned it.

“It's a tough market,” Adams said. “It's six seasons, as opposed to two [for men], so there's more fashion orientation there … we probably went about it in a kind of male-centric way, so it didn't work out very well for us.”

With this Father's Day push, it is testing the waters again.

“We're probably not going to be involved in the female footwear market again but we certainly acknowledge how influential females can be on male purchase decisions,” he said.

The company built its database of women consumers mainly through outreaches on gift-giving occasions like Father's Day, Christmas and birthdays.

Adams said women have enormous influence in buying decisions. Any time a couple walks into a Johnston & Murphy store and it comes down to choosing the product, “it's always the sideways glance to the wife,” Adams noticed on visits. “They're a lot more involved in the purchase decision, so with this e-mail campaign we're just being truthful about that, basically.”

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